India has signed a deal worth around Rs 1,500 crore to acquire R-27 air-to-air missiles from Russia to be equipped on the Su-30MKI combat aircraft recently marking a switch from Ukraine which in 2012 had secured orders for the same missile from the Indian Air Force. Vympel R-27 missile is a medium-to-long-range air-to-air missile developed by the Soviet Union in the early ’80s and still manufactured by Russia and Ukraine with different modern variants.

Ukrainian state-run joint-stock holding company, Artem, had handed over the first batch of R-27 medium-range air-to-air missiles to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2013 and total order from IAF was for 400 R-27 missiles which included 180 each variant of R-27ER1 (130km) and R-27ET1 (72 km ) and 40 Captive Training Missile . While Indian media did not report which variant was ordered by IAF from Russia, but sources close to have confirmed that the latest R-27 order was of a newer variant

IAF has placed orders for 400 R-27EA Variant which has the same range of 130km as that of Ukrainian R-27ER1 (130km) missile brought by the IAF in 2012 but the key difference between both the missile is that Russia has Integrated a modified R-77 active radar seeker into R-27EA Variant thus increasing its potential to engage a variety of airborne targets day/night in all weather conditions in the front and rear hemisphere in heavy clutter environments.

Ukrainian R-27ER1 missile had a Semi-active radar homing (SARH) and Infrared homing guidance seeker which means when the aircraft launches the missile it is guided by a radar towards its target but when it arrives into IR seeker range it locks on and guides itself towards the target which allows launch aircraft to exit the scene or undertake other actions while the missile homes in on its target.

R-27EA Variant due to its Active radar seeker (ARH) has better resistance to electronic countermeasures and can be autonomous during the terminal phase. Missile requires guidance updates via a datalink from the launching platform till it reaches it projected interception point and activates its radar and searches for the target in its Kill Zone and when it finds the target it zeros into it.

AIM-120 C-5 AMRAAM Failure explained

AAMs which have Active radar seeker (ARH) has best of the kill probabilities when compared with older AAMs which have only IR or SARH+ IR Combo Seeker but ARH AAMs still can fail if it has been launched from its maximum range and if the target aircraft is fast enough to maneuver from its Kill zone like seen when PAF F-16s launched salvo of 4-5 AIM-120 C-5 AMRAAM missiles at an IAF Sukhoi-Su-30MKI but still missile failed to find its target due to aggressive maneuvering and use of Jammers and flares and also due to lack of guidance updates via a datalink from the launching platform due to which when AIM-120 C-5 arrived at its projected interception point it couldn’t find its target and built-in self-destruction mode of the missile kicked in due to which IAF was able to recover debris of the missile.

R-77 Failure explained

IAF’s Sukhoi-Su-30MKI was reportedly armed with Russian R-77 medium-range, active radar homing air-to-air missile but due to range restrictions, it was not able to get firing clearance from the onboard computers due to which no launch happened. AIM-120 C-5 AMRAAM (enjoyed 10-15 % additional range compared to R-77 (90 km ) and PAF F-16 took full advantage of that and fired at its maximum range but due to poor handling and lack of proper exposure of the missile to the pilots meant it was ineffective to secure a kill.

R-27EA /R-27ER1+RVV-SD Deadly Combo

400 R-27EA with range of 130 km and 400 RVV-SD (R-77-1) with a range of 110 km have been recently ordered by IAF. R-27 are known as an ancient relic of AAMs which are still used by Russian and Ukrainian air force along with many export countries due to missile ability to fire in any weather condition no matter what is topographic of the scene of action. As seen by the recent AMRAAM failure missile-like R-27 AAMs are still in the market but with ARH missile efficiency goes up, but Soviet doctrine favors a combo of firing ARH AAM along with SARH+ IR Combo to blunt any possible countermeasures employed by the target aircraft.

IAF is expanding its AAM arsenal to reflect the same and not to be depended on a single type which can fail as seen with the R-77. Combo of R-27 variant with upgraded R-77 AAM will now effectively blunt any advantages PAF F-16s had with them but it is also likely that PAF F-16 fleet will now be getting latest D variant of AMRAAM which has better range, while IAF due to Dassault Rafale will be getting Meteor missile with even longer range.


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